How to Copyright an Idea for a Book

••• blue book image by Alexey Klementiev from

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Copyright law is designed to protect the authors of creative works, such as novels, songs and movies, from the unauthorized reproduction or other use of their created material. Ideas may not be copyrighted in the absence of a work that expresses them. An idea for a book cannot be copyrighted, but the book itself may be. Neither does copyright protect words, phrases or slogans, though they may sometimes be registered as trademarks.

Write the book. Under United States copyright law creation of the a book or any other work automatically establishes copyright. No other action of the author is required, but some other actions may be beneficial.

File copyright registration. Registering a work with the United States Copyright Office fixes a creation date that can document its protected existence before any intellectual infringement occurs. The registration date is determined by when the work is received in the Copyright Office.

Affix a "Notice of Copyright" to the book or other visually perceptible work. The letter "c" enclosed in a circle, with the year the work was created and the author's name constitute a notice of copyright in the United States.

Publish and distribute the book. While no longer required by United States copyright law secure copyright, publication also establishes an author's ownership of any work.


  • Copyright laws vary between nations and no one nation's copyright laws are binding on another.



About the Author

Jeff Hammack developed his writing skills over a 30-year career in fire fighting and emergency medical services, routinely producing policy, technical and training documents and newsletters. His first freelance piece was published in in the May 2008 issue of "Hampton Roads Health Journal.”

Photo Credits

  • blue book image by Alexey Klementiev from